Life and thoughts from a small-scale organic farm . . . and its farmers

This is a blog that explores ideas around the growing of food and community at Glen Valley Organic Farm.

Thursday, November 24, 2011

Sourcing Great Seed

Sourcing great seed can make the difference between enjoying growing veggies and finding it to be a frustrating experience. As an organic farm, our certification process requires that we try to source seeds that are certified organic before considering conventional options. That can make our seed purchasing a bit tricky at time. Here are some of the sources we use on our farm.

We purchased a significant amount of seed from High MowingSeeds in 2011. We did this for two reasons. First, High Mowing only sells organic seed. When looking through their catalogue, there is no need to worry about whether a variety is available as organic seed. Second, they offer a Community Supported Seed program. Seed shares purchased before 31 December provide the purchaser with a 10% discount.

Unfortunately, we encountered problems getting our seed from High Mowing. Our first order ended up stalled at Canadian Customs for over a month (at no fault of High Mowing), and because the company didn’t offer a courier delivery option for Canadian customers there was no way to track the package. High Mowing re-shipped the order via courier (at their own expense) and has promised to offer better shipping arrangements to Canadian customers this coming season.

Johnny’s Selected Seeds remains the most efficient company for shipping, not to mention an excellent selection of varieties and tools. We have yet to have a problem getting a package through customs.

Both Johnny’s and High Mowing carry a wide range of the best organic seed varieties being produced by companies such as Vitalis and Bejo as well as small breeders of specialty cultivars. Both feature a number of varieties bred in-house or in co-operation with breeding research projects.

We stopped ordering from Seeds of Change after a string of problems is recent years. Their online ordering system often wouldn't allow orders to Canada; their phone orders go through a call centre staffed by people with no clue about growing. After parent company, multi-national Mars Corp, closed the business’ research farm in New Mexico without warning last year, we aren’t confident there is a commitment to developing new varieties or any effort to work with the organic community.

West Coast Seeds remains an option for some seeds, although the company carries limited selection for organic growers and seems focused more on the home gardener. Pricing on some commercial organic varieties this season (such as Napoli carrots) made it prohibitive to purchase from this local company. West Coast’s shipping charges policy on backordered products has racked up additional charges. US competitors generally ship backorders at no additional cost.

William Dam Seeds provides an alternative Canadian seed source. They have increased their selection of organic varieties and have competitive pricing. The only drawback is that they take an exceptionally long time to fill orders (up to six weeks).

Finally, local BC seed suppliers Stellar Seeds and Salt Spring Seeds are great for finding unique, organic, open pollinated varieties suited to growing in most parts of BC. They often don't have enough supply for a farm, but they do offer some great seeds for small experiments -- perfect for the backyard gardener!


  1. Have you looked into Tourne Sol Cooperative farm near Montreal? They do heirloom organic seed production. I got some excellent carrot and edible chrysanthemum seeds there and I really enjoy their blog on seed saving.